Occasional Paper No: 05


Author: Dr. Husnul Amin

ISBN: 978-969-7576-54-8

Price in US$: 5

Year of Publication: 2019

Number of Pages: 56


Beyond September 11 and the Enlightened Moderation

“Situating Trajectories of Islamic Reform in Pakistan in the Historical Context”

Subjects: Islamic reform, Religio-political movements, Colonial India, Islamism, Pakistan


The religio-political movements of today‘s Pakistan are not sudden reactions but having deep historical context. The advent of various events in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the emergence of numerous intellectual trends in response to colonial conditions, and the multi-layered deprivations of Muslims in India are of paramount significance. These events and trends shaped the proliferation of other numerous intellectual and social trajectories in contemporary Pakistan.

The description does conclude that the democratic and militant Islamist responses are not instantaneous reactions to the failure of modernity or secular ruling elite failings. These reactions are historically rooted in the events and intellectual developments in the un-divided colonial India.1 However, we argue that the historicity of Islamist and other trends do not show linearity as assumed by modernization theorists but a non-homogeneous continuity.

On 14 August 1947, the end of British rule over India saw the creation of two independent states—Pakistan and India. Pakistan was created based on an Islamic ideology, and thus it was the “creation of an idea” too. A country of more than 180 million inhabitants, Pakistan is the second largest Muslim-majority (97 per cent) nation after Indonesia. Administratively divided into four provinces, Pakistan shares its boundaries with China, India, Iran and Afghanistan. The ideology of this new nation and its geostrategic location in the region made it a very important player in the global affairs. Further, the post 9/11 developments, US war on terror in Afghanistan, and the Taliban‘s militancy in the tribal areas of Pakistan contributed to its significance. Furthermore, the dispute over the territory of Kashmir between India and Pakistan forms another key area of concern for the global community.

Since independence, Pakistan has had a turbulent political history. Under various generals, it has seen 40 years of direct military rule. In the wake of the extended periods of military rule, the country has had to deal with the ill effects of abrogated constitutions, undermined popular sovereignty and eroded fundamental human rights.3 Historically, while Pakistan has performed relatively better on economic front, its social indicators are dismal at best: low literacy rate, poor healthcare facilities, weak infrastructure, lack of several social services, mounting pressure of unemployment, swelling youth population with little or no hope for a better future and mounting radicalisation of society on ethnic and religious grounds. After 9/11, the recent tide of militant activism has further aggravated the severity of the problems of Pakistani state and society. The multiplicity of the issues and lack of capacity of the state to deal effectively with the problems has brought the state close to a failed state.5 Pakistan‘s political instability has been a function of widespread poverty, consistent cycles of civilian-military tension giving rise to erosion of institutional stability, predatory nature of highly corrupt elitist state structure and “entrenched patron-client relationships protecting the interests of those in power”. The power elite consisting of military and civil establishments and political class is argued to have “close relationships with a traditional feudal elite unwilling to implement radical reforms that will benefit poor people”. Moreover, religious forces exercise an overwhelming influence on beliefs, ideas, worldviews and courses of action of individuals, societal trends and social processes in Pakistan. Some scholars regard religious forces and their worldviews as a cause of the failure of modernity in Pakistan.

Pakistan‘s economic record is both impressive and dismal at the same time. In the former sense, in the last six decades of its existence, Pakistan was able to achieve high economic growth rates thus doubling its per capita income despite the quadruple increase in population. In addition to this, the predominantly agrarian structure of the economy has moved into a more “diversified production structure”. Pakistan was also able to introduce neo-liberal reforms by deregulating, liberalising and opening up its economy to a greater degree than some other developing countries like India.9 However, despite these achievements it has a record of underperformance on most of the social and political indicators. It has been a laboratory for experimenting with different development models and approaches: from state capitalism to socialist-oriented approaches to neo-liberal policies. Delivering social services, reducing income disparities and eradicating poverty are the most daunting challenges that Pakistan has still to overcome.

In order to understand the religio-political landscape in the broader context of Pakistani state and society, section one provides a brief overview of the ideology of Pakistan, political struggle for the creation of Pakistan, and the emergence of various issues in the post-colonial setting. From this description, I intend to outline the external context/political environment that inevitably set the stage for the interplay of diverse societal forces. In section two, the context is further enlarged by a description and analysis of the enduring legacy of eighteenth and nineteenth century intellectual and political developments in colonial India. Section three is the identification of intellectual responses of the Muslim society by dwelling on three of them: the traditionalist trajectories, Sir Sayyid‘s modernism/rationalism and Shibli‘s moderation.

About Author:

Dr. Husnul Amin ontained his PhD in Development Studies (with further specialization in Political Sociology) in 2010 from the International Institute of Social Studies (The Hague). His dissertation concerned the genesis and proliferation of Post-Islamist intellectual and social-political trajectories in Pakistan. He was awarded post-doc fellowship supported by the DRS-COFUND Fellowship Program of Freie University Berlin and the European Commission, hosted by the Berlin Graduate School Muslims Cultures & Societies (BGSMCS) during his research stay, March 2013 – July 2014; availed fellowship at William and Mary, Virginia, USA (January 2014) and research stay at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA (October 2015). Under his supervision four PhD and 30 MPhil scholars have successfully defended their dissertations, others are in submission stage. His main areas of research and teaching include: Religion and Politics in the Muslims world; Islamic Social movements and Post-Islamist trends: conflict, peace and development; neoliberal globalization and contemporary Islam, and international political economy. A select list of his articles were published in journals of repute such as Romanian Journal of Political Science; Journal of Islamic Studies; Hamdard Islamicus; Pakistan Perspectives; Pakistan Journal of History and Culture; Pakistan Journal of Criminology, Historicus etc.

Dr. Husnul Amin is currently the Executive Director of the Iqbal International Institute for Research and Dialogue (IRD), and Associate Professor at the Department of Politics & International Relations, at International Islamic University Islamabad.

He can be contacted at: [email protected]


The Iqbal International Institute fr Research & Dialogue (IRD) is a constituent unit of the International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI). The IRD has launched a series of publications on various issue in pursuance of its objectives to publish quality books.


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